If you’d asked me, I’d have confidently told you the telegram service was long gone, relegated to dusty 1930s spy thrillers, retro New York hipster bars, and awesome games I’m building.
I would have been so completely wrong.
It turns out India actually still uses telegrams. Barely. The service is closing in days!
When I read this, I sent Woo an urgent SMS. “We’ve got to send a telegram. Pronto.” I looked at the note, and added one word to the end: “Stop.” And I knew, this was going to be awesome.
The local post office didn’t think it was as awesome as we did. “No, we don’t send telegrams,” the guy behind the counter said. “That stopped weeks ago.”
No, no, no — this couldn’t be the case. I couldn’t have missed the death of an 1837 technology by mere weeks. So we drove across town to the main post office.
“No, we don’t send telegrams,” that guy also said.
I was crushed. I turned around. And then he added:
“Telegrams are sent from the telegram building.”
YES!!! They have an actual building for the telegram service!
Although to get there, you have to rush your way through a construction site, then through a hole in a parking-lot hedge, then down an overgrown and smashed brick pathway, down an alleyway, and into a crumbling building, where the only evidence of the telegram service is a mildly grumpy man sitting behind a desk.
(Telegram-related terrorism fears are high in India, so photos are ill-advised, but you can get the feel from the Google satellite.)
He’s probably grumpy because his 399 coworkers were transferred to other departments. And it wasn’t exactly a highly trafficked area.
He handed over an old slip of paper, wanted more details than should be necessary, copied everything into a massive bound ledger, spent ten minutes tallying up the bill, and charged only pennies for the experience.
And that was it. I have no idea what happened next. Was there furious tapping of dots and dashes, or did he pop open Outlook 95 and send it via email? I don’t even know.
I guess the story isn’t exciting. Not one bit. But receiving the telegrams a week later?
Now that was grand.